The Kavli Foundation
Newsletter Vol. 1 Issue 4, 2008
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:
The Kavli Prize

Ceremony, Banquet Remarks Posted on Website

In September, the seven recipients of the 2008 Kavli Prizes were honored at a ceremony in Norway's Oslo Concert Hall, where His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon Magnus presented each laureate the Kavli Prize gold medal and scroll.

Kavli Prize LaureatesReceiving the prizes in astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience were: Astrophysics - Donald Lynden-Bell, University of Cambridge (UK); Maarten Schmidt, California Institute of Technology (US);  Nanoscience - Louis Brus, Columbia University (US); Sumio Iijima, Meijo University (Japan); Neuroscience - Sten Grillner, Karolinska Institutet (Sweden); Thomas Jessell, Columbia University (US); Pasko Rakic, Yale University (US).

Joining His Royal Highness were representatives of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the Norwegian Ministry of Research and Higher Education, and The Kavli Foundation -- including the Kavli Prize founder, Fred Kavli -- as well as the chairs of the Kavli Prize committees. The ceremony was also attended by guests of the Academy, Foundation and the laureates, which included noted researchers and international leaders in science.

The video web cast of the ceremony and more information about the Kavli Prize laureates can be found here.


On November 12, President Geor
ge W. Bush and his Science Advisor, Dr. John Marburger honored the first U.S. recipients of the Kavli Prize in an Oval Office reception at the White House tExecutive Office of the President of the United Stateshis afternoon. Joining the laureates at the reception were Wegger C. StrÝmmen, ambassador of Norway to the United States; Fred Kavli, founder and chairman of The Kavli Foundation; and David Auston, president of The Kavli Foundation.

"Thanks to The Kavli Foundation for establishing these prestigious awards," said
Dr. John Marburger, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. "We are proud that American scientists are among the first round of recipients, and hope for more in the future.  The fields in which the awards are given are among the most exciting and productive in science today, and the work that is being recognized has in each case opened new opportunities for discovery by generations of investigators.  Congratulations to the recipients for their outstanding contributions."

Blowing in the Wind --
A "Weather Vane" Hope to Track the Movement of Dark Matter

MIT Dark MatterIn dozens of projects all over the world, researchers are trying to detect dark matter particles by looking for evidence of those collisions. Most of these efforts try to record the vibrations from the "nuclear recoil" that is supposed to occur when a dark matter particle (called a weakly interacting massive particle, or WIMP) jostles an atom. A few others take a slightly different tact and try to map the course of detectable particles after they are struck by WIMPs.

Researchers at MIT's Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research are involved in dark-matter searches of both types, and one of these researchers -- Peter Fisher -- is engaged in a new project based on directional detection. With his principal collaborator, Steve Ahlen of Boston University, they are building a detector that uses a camera in a chamber of carbon tetraflouride gas to trace the path of electrons emitted by particle collisions. Next stop: a mine shaft in Lead, South Dakota. Read more.
The Power of Protein Machinery --
Why Understanding the "Tool Kit" of a Living Cell is One of Nanoscience's Great Frontiers

DNA SupercoilNowhere does nature's engineering skills seem more exquisite than in the cell, where thousands of proteins work as tiny motors to power the processes of life. Today, researchers are eager to see if they can find new uses for this ultra-efficient machinery.

Researchers at the Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at Delft University of Technology are among those eager to understand the nature and potential uses of this ultra-efficient machinery. With a focus on molecular biophysics -- a science that applies mechanical concepts from physics to the study of the cell's many moving parts -- this is described as  "one of the most spectacular frontiers in nanoscience." Read more.
Understanding Our Sense of Place --
Can the Secrets of the Brain's Network of Grid Cells Explain How We Know Where We Are?

Illistration of Grid CellsAmong the vast store of memories we carry around in our heads is a large and crucial collection of maps that enable us to recognize the places we know and navigate between them.

In its research on how specialized cells interact to create the sense of place, the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim is focusing on the mechanisms of spatial computation in the normal brain. The interest in spatial computation is motivated by the possibility of achieving something Institute researchers have not seen before: the complete start-to-finish mechanics of a simple cognitive function. This may tell us how the brain works generally, as well as what goes on in Alzheimer's and other diseases. Read more.

Study of Galaxy Clusters Detects Growth-Stifling Dark Energy

Like referees with different vantage points concurring on an important call in a tight football game, an international team of cosmologists has independently confirmed the accelerating expansion of the universe.

Galaxy Cluster Abell 85A decade ago, astronomers studying the relatively uniform brightness of exploding stars to estimate cosmic distances discovered that the expansion of the universe appeared to be accelerating. Gravity should have been causing the expansion, which followed the big bang, to become slower with time. This gave rise to the mystery of dark energy, the unknown force theoretically responsible for the acceleration.

Now cosmologists, including Andrey Kravtsov of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago, have come to the same conclusion via a completely different method: tracing the evolution of galaxy clusters. Read more.
South Pole Telescope Provides First Major
Scientific Results

South Pole TelescopeThe first major scientific results from the South Pole Telescope initial survey were released in early October. Four distant, massive clusters of galaxies were detected in an initial analysis of South Pole Telescope (SPT) survey data. Three of these galaxy clusters were previously unknown systems and, therefore, represent the first clusters detected in a Sunyaev-Zel'dovich (SZ) effect survey.

The discovery was announced by John Carlstrom, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago, and principle investigator for the project. As reported in Nature, the discovery was the first step towards cataloging thousands of galaxy clusters in order to detect and understand dark energy.
In This Issue
Kavli Prizes Presented to Laureates in Oslo Ceremony; Honored at White House
MIT: Building a "Weather Vane" to Track Dark Matter
Delft: The Power of Protein Machinery
NTNU Trondheim: Understanding Our Sense of Place
University of Chicago: Galaxy Clusters Confirm Accelerating Expansion of the Universe
University of Chicago: South Pole Telescope Provides First Major Scientific Results
UCSD: Light Triggers a New Code for Brain Cells
NTNU Trondheim: New Findings on the Brain's Navigation System
Light Triggers a New Code for Brain Cells
Cells in the pale tadpole's brain adopted a new chemical code.According to a study published in Nature, brain cells can adopt a new chemical code in response to cues from the outside world. The discovery opens the possibility that brain chemistry could be selectively altered by stimulating specific circuits to remedy low levels of neural chemicals that underlie some human ailments.

The findings of Davide Dulcis, a University of California, San Diego postdoctoral fellow, and Nicholas Spitzer, co-director of UCSD's Kavli Institute for Brain and Memory, was Nature's cover story in the Nov. 13 issue.  Read press story and hear Nature's Neuropodcast.
Brain's Navigation System Relies on Broad Spatial Scale

Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim have uncovered new details on the behavior of grid cells, which the brain uses to form a metric map of the environment -- key for our ability to navigate spaces and landscapes.

In Science, researchers announced that, contrary to previous thinking, the brain's metric map operates on a wide range of spatial scales. Using rats, they recorded the activity from place cells in the hippocampus, which work collectively to signal the animal's current location with great accuracy. They found that "short-range" place cells are located in the upper part of the hippocampus, with longer-range place cells increasing as one progresses deeper into this area of the brain. For rats, the scale begins at approximately 30 cm to about 10 m. Among the findings: there is a limit to the size of the area to which a place cell will respond.

There is also a rhythm to how groups of neurons work together to form maps and encode information. In Nature, researchers showed that a temporal code, also known as phase precession, is found in some parts of the entorhinal cortex, and that the code is very similar to the hippocampal temporal code. These findings bring us closer to understanding the biological mechanisms that can generate the precise spike timing during behavior and facilitate sequence learning via synaptic plasticity.

Articles on both stories can be found here.


Kavli Bullet Point Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology at Stanford University. KIPAC Director Roger Blandford was appointed chair of the National Academy of Sciences decadal survey of astronomy and astrophysics, Astro2010. The survey assesses science opportunities and recommends priorities for federal investment in astronomy and astrophysics.

Kavli Bullet Point Kavli Nanoscience Institute at the California Institute of Technology.
Technology Review named  KNI researcher Julia Greer one of the top innovators under the age of 35 for her work on nanoscale materials. A panel of expert judges, along with the editorial staff of the prestigious MIT publication, selected her for the annual honor known simply in scientific circles as "TR35." Previous recipients of the honor include PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

Kavli Bullet Point Kavli Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at Peking University, Beijing, China. In December, KIAA and the Kavli Institute for Cosmology at the University of Cambridge  held a joint workshop in Beijing on near-field cosmology (i.e. the Milky Way, the Local Group and the Local Supercluster). . .  At KIAA, Professors Lixin Li and Qingjuan Yu, experts in the areas of high energy astrophysics and active galactic nuclei, have joined the faculty.

Kavli Bullet Point Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. In October, the Institute was awarded a grant of NOK 20 million (over 3 million US) from the European Research Council (ERC) - funds that will support research aimed at describing and explaining to the smallest detail how a so-called higher brain function works mechanistically. 
. . . Kavli Institute/ERC research fellow Ayumu Tashiro has won the Peter and Patricia Gruber International Research Award in Neuroscience. Tashiro shares the prize with Reza Sharif-Naeini from the Institut de Pharmacologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire, Valbonne, France.